How to remove and clean the keyboard from a
Sony Vaio laptop computer,
specifically a VGN-S150 (aka PCG-6C2L)
My wife accidentally spilled some soda on her computer keyboard a few days ago. Even though she did her best to wipe it clean, when the soda dried, it left the keys very sticky. Pushing them down made terrible clicky sounds and they tended to remain stuck down. What to do?
She called Sony service- they wanted $300 to replace the keyboard, plus $90 to correct "water damage" if there was any. Forget that! I found new keyboards selling on ebay for <$100. But I don't give up $100 easily, so I decided to try to clean the keyboard myself. I figured that if it didn't survive the cleaning I could always buy a new one and install it. I know that when electronic equipment is assembled, it is routinely washed with deionized water to remove solder flux, so distilled water (the next best thing to deionized water) should be relatively harmless.
First I had to figure out how to uninstall the keyboard. I searched the web for disassembly information and to find out if there was any sort of moisture barrier in or under the keyboard. I couldn't find anything, anywhere, so I tried removing all the screws on the bottom of the computer. The bezel (actually the top cover) came loose, but it seemed like there were still some screws holding the keyboard down at the center. I removed all the key caps but didn't see any screws hiding under them. Back to the web to see if anyone could shed some light on the subject...
Someone in Hong Kong has a video showing the reassembly of a similar laptop. At the end of the video you can see the keyboard going back in. Here is a link to the video: EDepot Scroll down about 3/4 of the page to get to the video. That was all I needed to see.
Here is how you take out the keyboard:
1) Shut down the computer, turn it upside down, and remove the battery. This is for safety so that if you drop a screw or tool onto the motherboard you won't kill the computer.
2) Remove the two screws on the bottom side of the computer that are inside square holes immediately adjacent to the battery (see photo below).
3) Turn the computer over, and open the LCD so it is out of the way. Cover the LCD with a towel to protect it in case you drop a screwdriver. Use a screwdriver or other thin metal blade to push the spring loaded hold-downs above the F4 key upward, and pry up the left side of the keyboard. Hold it up a little with your fingers and then release the catch above the F12 key (see photos below). Be GENTLE. If the keyboard doesn't lift easily you have not released the spring hold-downs properly. The keyboard is flexible and easily damaged if you use too much force. Lift the keyboard and lay it face down so you can see the ribbon cable connector on the mother board.
4) Flip up the latch bar on the ribbon connector on the motherboard and pull out the ribbon cable. The first picture shows the latch closed, and the second shows it open. When it is open the ribbon cable can be removed and reinserted easily.
How to clean the spilled junk off the keyboard:
Get a clean plastic tub large enough for the keyboard to fit inside. Also get a gallon of distilled water from the grocery store. Distilled water has no minerals that will get left behind all over your keyboard. I don't recommend using any kind of detergent unless you've spilled something greasy on the keyboard. Pull all the key caps off and put them into the tub, followed by the keyboard. Gently pour the distilled water over the keyboard- don't spray it. You don't want to force water into the key switches. Work the buttons several times to ensure that the sugary, sticky stuff that is stuck in them dissolves. Dry the keyboard with paper towels then set it out in the sun for a couple hours to ensure it is really dry. Dry off the key caps, too. After everything is dry, try all the keys and see if there is any remaining stickiness. If there is, repeat the wash and dry procedure as many times as necessary to get rid of it.
The key caps just snap off (pry them up from the sides), except for the space bar and one or two other wide keys that have steel wires to stabilize them. After those caps snap off, you have to slide the wires upward toward the LCD to release them. They are easy to put back on. First you slide the wire ends into the slots on either side of the key switch then snap down the key cap.
Reinstalling the keyboard is the opposite of installing it. Insert the ribbon cable, snap down the ribbon cable latch, snap the keyboard into position, and reinstall the two screws in the bottom of the case.
The keyboard is well sealed against the influx of moisture, but there are large holes in the computer case under the keyboard so if you spill a lot of liquid on the keyboard it could go all the way down to the motherboard. Then you have a REAL disassembly, clean-up, and reassembly job. You can gain access to to motherboard by removing the top cover. Start by removing all the screws on the bottom of the computer, including one or two hiding under the memory cover plus five on the top side, under the keyboard (see photo below). The cover will come off easily. That's as far as I went. The motherboard was clean so I just put the cover back on.
The keyboard is as good as new now.